Craig Johnson is an American writer who created the Sheriff Walt Longmire series of novels.
I came across them, by way of the Arts and Entertainment (A&E) TV series, (and later seasons on Netflix).
Longmire, is based on Johnson’s books, with a few minor changes.
The series is built around the character of Walt Longmire, who is the long-standing Sheriff of (fictional) Absaroka County, Wyoming, and his struggle to return to work and normalcy, after the death of his wife. His daughter, Sheriff’s department staff, best friend Henry Standing Bear and colorful local characters all contribute to richly-drawn episodes, which are interwoven with wonderful and tantalizing backstories.
It struck me that the characters were so well fleshed out, evoking almost a sense of familiarity, but without any of them slipping into cliches… that I thought the books must surely be even better.
On a series of journeys, I visited multiple bookstores in Maple Ridge, Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle… and none had them in stock. A number of the stores were aware of the series, and couldn’t keep them on the shelves. The other book-sellers just shrugged. In all cases, I was left wanting.
So, I went to Amazon, and took a leap of faith. Not wanting to pay for shipping, I ordered the first four books in the series, and waited anxiously for their arrival.
I was not disappointed.
The first book was devoured in a non-stop reading session that drew me in, and caused me to cast EVERYTHING (including sleep) aside.
As soon as I finished the first book, I ordered the rest of the series… for I knew they would not last long.
Because there are a limited number of books (currently nine) I have given them to myself sparingly, in order to not burn through them as quickly as I might want.
Each of the books build upon the previous ones, some beginning on the day after a previous book ends… so it is important to read them in order, to gain an understanding of the characters’ relationships and motivations. There is also (in each paperback) a Question and Answer section with Craig Johnson, and a series of discussion topics for book chat groups.
(His twitter handle @UcrossPop25 comes from the Town he currently lives in… Ucross, Wyoming… which currently has a population of 25 folks).
He sometimes also offers short stories to his readers, in exchange for signing up for the mailing list (although, other than the December 2012 Christmas short story, I have received no email from him… save a “Thank you, you are officially deputized” acknowledgement.)
I am pretty select in my choice of reading, especially with regards to mystery novels, yet I have added him to my list of favorite authors, alongside Robert Parker, Rex Stout, Robert Crais & Michael Connelly. I’m sure you will, as well !!!
Robert B. Parker died today.
His characters include Spencer (Robert Urich played the character on TV’s Spenser: For Hire), Hawk (Avery Brooks had a spin off TV series), Jesse Stone (Played by Tom Selleck in a series of TV movies), and Sunny Randall (He wrote a female character at the request of Helen Hunt, although no Movies or TV shows came from it.)
His Boston-based characters appear to be chiseled from the same stone that his predecessors Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald worked from… but the inclusion of many different ethnic, gay and lesbian characters portrayed without stereotypes, as well as strong intelligent female characters, leaves no doubt of its modern sensibility.
His three western novels were also well received, and one (Appaloosa) was turned into a major motion picture.
Throughout my life, I have always enjoyed Mystery and Detective novels.
Some click, and others, do not.
I grew up on Ellery Queen, and when those were exhausted, graduated to Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe.
When he passed, I turned to Robert B. Parker and, more recently, Robert Crais.
Now, sadly, I must go searching again, trying to find an author who pens a sleuth with an attitude, a sharp eye and a quick wit.
They are a rare breed… and we lost a very good one today.